Doing it by the book, yet still drowned out

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Doing it by the book, yet still drowned out

In Ji-yeon thought she had everything planned out.

A second-year law student and a North Korean human rights activist, In had reached out to student organizations and applied for and received approval to use Seoul Plaza in the city center.

Her goal was to stage a cultural festival there on Aug. 20, with a photo exhibition and film screenings, to raise awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea.

But then the liberals came and ruined her party.

At around 9 p.m. that day, roughly 4,000 people poured into In’s festival. They were opposition politicians and protesters who had finished their own rally, dubbed “Demonstration for Hope,” at Namdaemun to protest the Hanjin layoffs and other labor issues.

“Seoul Plaza on that day was a place where we could feel how difficult it is to voice concerns about human rights in North Korea,” In, 38, said.

Although In had official approval to use Seoul Plaza, the liberal protesters also wanted to be there, too, which was illegal.

But they entered the plaza anyway and occupied the stage where a documentary, “Kimjongilia,” was being shown, highlighting the human rights violations in North Korea.

The liberal and labor demonstrators used microphones and turned on speakers on the stage, starting their rally and drowning out In’s event. Five opposition party representatives in the National Assembly also gave speeches. Policemen couldn’t block the massive number of the new protestors.

“How can liberal civil rights organizations that advocate for the minority ignore the human rights abuse of the North Korean people?” In said.

In said that opposition lawmakers knew that her event was taking place but decided to illegally go anyway.

“A few days ago, DP Representative Chung Dong-young called me to ask that we finish our festival earlier than scheduled so that they could use the plaza.”

In’s North Korean human rights festival ended at around 11 p.m., when someone cut the electricity. In says she suspects the liberal protestors are behind the blackout.

“I’m thinking of going to the police,” In said. “But at the time, the police couldn’t protect our legal festival from the protestors and were just watching the illegal demonstrators. They even told us, ‘Please finish your festival as soon as possible for your safety.’?”

But In said she would continue her efforts to improve human rights in the North.

“I will hold a seminar to write a thesis on international law about North Korea’s human rights,” In said. “I’m also mulling if I could stage this kind of festival regularly.”


By Kim Hyo-eun, Jung Won-yeob [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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